Category Archives: Literary Opinion

I’ve Got It: My Next Novel Will Feature …

This might be a bad idea from a politically correct point-of-view; I might make myself into a pariah by posting this. But I’m not politically correct. If the truth be told, I can’t stand the whole movement. I get it: if there’s a man standing next to me in a dress, that’s no cause to beat him senseless or publicly ridicule him. But I still think it’s a little weird. And I think I’m within my rights to raise an eyebrow. Sorry.

 

I find it amusing as I hop from ezine to ezine and peruse the wish lists of the respective editors. A whole bunch of them are looking for LGBTQ (or whatever) literature and all sorts of variants on that theme. Basically, the characters in our stories are getting stranger and stranger, more and more removed from “normal” (if there is such a thing–the PC movement denies that there is; I’m not so sure). I suppose that’s natural as a perfectly “normal” character would probably be boring. But it seems to me that it is possible to get lost in the weeds of details, striving to make your character so unique it becomes its own bizarre amalgamation of traits and randomness; a string of characteristics that mock the whole notion of character.

 

So, in light of the vast PC wisdom, and the muse that inspires me, my next novel will feature …

a cis-gendered Hispanic male albino lesbian with a penchant for Cheerios and heavy metal music. His love interest, of course, will be a trans-gendered female weightlifting Sumo wrestler from Alpha Centauri with seven fingers on her right hand and an extra row of teeth; she suffers from psoriasis.

 

I should apologize for that. Maybe I can make it good by claiming they are both hobgoblins. Am I allowed to tease hobgoblins? Or are they off-limits, too?

 

Odin Speaks: The Legend versus the Myth

Arf. I am Odin. When I speak, you listen, for I am all-knowing and wise.

OdinOnce again, I stumbled across a curious fact while reading some of my more unconventional fare (more specifically, while I was reading a couple books on Atlantis). Apparently, there is a distinction between a legend and a myth. Both are stories, of a sort. A Legend is based on some historical fact; it contains some kernel of truth; however, whatever truth it contains has been buried by an avalanche of distortion and historical debris that has been produced by the many intervening years between the telling of its story and the events that inspired it. A decent example of a Legend is the Legend of Atlantis, told by Plato. A number of the details of the story have been confirmed (specifically a handful of Athenian details), so it seems that some of the story is based on a truth that has been obscured by time.

In contrast to the Legend is the Myth. A myth is also a story concerning events from the deepest mists of time. However, a myth usually involves the activities of some supernatural force: like a hero, demigod, or god. They are heavily filled with symbols and interpretative meaning, but they were never intended to be taken as factual. For example, the Greek Myth of Phaethon’s disastrous attempt to drive the sun god Apollo’s chariot is an excellent example of a myth.

The skeptical lune lurking inside me, however, is not so sure that that distinction can be easily verified. Are we sure Phaethon’s chariot ride is just symbolic? It could (if we stretch the bounds of credulity) involve some half-alien hybrid who got a turn riding his father’s spaceship. That’s not likely, but it’s possible (that’s the problem with having a training in philosophy: just about anything goes—except contradictions—or, alternatively, nothing goes; it’s usually one or the other: Will the sun rise tomorrow? The scientist says, “Of course it will.” The philosopher says, “I don’t know.” It’s the difference between deductive logic, and inductive reasoning. Certainty and probability.)

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today. Woof.

Atlantis: Fact or Fiction?

This post has little to do with fantasy literature, per se. At least not directly. The connection is that the story of Atlantis is kind of fantastical.

 

The story of Atlantis comes to us from Plato, specifically from his dialogue The Timaeus. I never studied that one in college. I’ve read bits and pieces of it—mostly the stuff about the demi-urge and such. Anyway, within the dialogue we are given the legend of Atlantis in which Plato tells of an ancient advanced civilization that was wiped out in a cataclysm of some sort—earthquakes and floods, basically—which not only destroyed the Atlantean civilization in its entirety, but devastated the Athenian nation as well. Plato provides a number of details about the Atlantean civilization which I will not go into here. I will say, having read several books on the subject now, that I believe the Atlantean Legend is based on a real nation-state that once existed. Exactly where it was, though, I have no idea. It could have been somewhere in the Mediterranean, somewhere along the North African coast, somewhere along the Spanish coast, somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, or even in Antartica.

 

However, I would like to distinguish here between Plato’s Atlantis and the New Age Atlantis. Plato’s Atlantis is the Atlantis of which he wrote. It may have been a technologically advanced nation, but only a technologically advanced nation relative to its time. Perhaps Plato’s Atlanteans mapped South and North America; perhaps they knew of Antartica; but they did NOT fly around in planes, nor did they develop a space program based on crystals or something like that. Why do I say this? Because according to the Platonic Legend, the Atlanteans were at war with the Athenians, and the Athenians won said war. If the Atlanteans were so advanced they were flying around in planes, they would have mopped the floor with the primitive Athenians. And they didn’t. They lost. No super-technology for you.

 

The New Age Atlantis is the term I would use to refer to some ancient culture that may have existed in ages past with technology on par with or perhaps even exceeding our own. Plato’s Atlantis provides no support to such a theory. Such an Atlantis may have existed, but we must look elsewhere for evidence (we only refer to it as Atlantis for romantic reasons for surely it was called something else during its times). Things like the Nazca lines in South America, or those tiny golden airplanes that were found, again in South America. A New Age Atlantis would require a global catastrophe to wipe out and reset the humans of this planet back to the beginnings of the Stone Age. Such an event is possible but, at first blush, appears kind of loony. That said, perhaps I’ve watched one too many episodes of Ancient Aliens, because I’ve grown convinced that there was either a New Age Atlantis-like civilization in our past or we actually were being visited by aliens as far back as our prehistory. The evidence presented on Ancient Aliens is (sometimes) quite compelling.

The Art of Writing: Brainstorming

So, you want to write your next big novel or short story. The first step (at least it is for me) is to brainstorm your story. Jot down all you can about your story. Start with the characters: the people around which the story revolves. Who is the main character? What characteristics define them? What are their goals? Is there a love interest? Do the same for him or her. Flesh them out. Once you have your characters straight, you can work on the plot of the story. What’s the conflict? What drives the tension? What is the story arc? Every story must have a beginning, middle, and end. Differentiate between such things here while you’re brainstorming. Don’t get upset if it’s still a little muddled, or even if you have more than one exclusive storyline in mind. You’ll straighten it out by the time you’re done. Brainstorming, as we were all taught in school, is just about stirring the pot of ideas. Write down everything you can think of. Every little detail. It doesn’t matter how small, nor does it even matter if it contradicts something you’ve already written down. Just get ideas on paper.

 

When are you done? Well, it depends on the length of the work in question. If it’s just a short story, you’re probably done when you have delineated the main characters and fleshed out the plotline. Then, you can start writing. If it’s a novel, you have to do the same type of work, but the details can be a little less clear. Many novelists change things or add things halfway through their work. Don’t feel boxed in because you’ve already brainstormed a path for your novel. Leave yourself some flexibility; it’s all part of the creative process.

 

Once you are done brainstorming your ideas, the next step is to outline your story. Of course, all of this is moot if you are a “pantser.” That is, a writer that writes by the seat of their pants. They kind of brainstorm as they go along. I used to be like that, but no more. Now I plot things out. Must be my old age, I guess. 🙂

 

Confucius Speaks

First, the important stuff: I am deeply offended that I was ‘upstaged’ by a Goodreads Giveaway Announcement last week. We all know cats are more important than selling books. Jeez! Now, on to the rebuttal of my whining human’s complaints:

My human clearly is not cut out to write. He can’t take the pressure. Afraid of a little bit of competition from Amazon. Hah! Boo hoo! It’s not like they have a complete monopoly on milk. I mean, that would be a travesty. Milk! Yum yum. Meeow. A few books here. A few books there. And he’s complaining because he’s not making any money at it. You have to have gumption to write! Nerve. And tenacity. It takes persistence and more persistence. I know. Back when I was being worshiped in Egypt, so many eons ago, I wrote a book in hieroglyphs. Perhaps you’ve heard of it: The Book of the Dead. Yes, I am the font of ancient Egypt lore. Because I’m a cat. And we know things. Most specifically we know that the human race will know no peace until we are worshiped once again as gods. And fed. Regularly. And have our ears rubbed. Just the way we like it.

Get your priorities straight Mr. Ryan. And get me some cat treats!

 

The Trials and Tribulations of an Indie Author

Methinks I’m going to vent a little, today. Perhaps it is not good form to spout angry vitriol at the ‘Net and all it offers. And perhaps it’s not good form to point out your own weakness—or maybe the whininess of such makes one look bad, but I’m finding the life of an Indie Author a bit tough to take of late. I enjoy the writing. I enjoy the editing. All the parts of the writing process are cool for me. I even enjoy developing new concepts for my book covers—although that’s not my forte and I hire someone to do the final cover. My big problem is that I’m just not making any money.

 

Yes, my chosen career is actually a money sink. I keep pouring more and more in, and getting pennies in return.

 

Part of my problem is that I have the business sense of a stone. I have no clue what to do about marketing. None. Whatsoever. I’ve posted interviews on-line at various sites. I’ve done virtual blog tours. I’ve bought advertisements on various ebook newsletters and similar sites. But no one wants to buy my books. I write well enough; I usually earn four or five stars on Amazon, and rarely fewer than three on Goodreads. I just don’t know what the problem is. My dashboard on Smashwords indicates that people just don’t want to pay money for an ebook—even when it’s consistently earned five stars. I have a number of sample downloads for all of my books, but very few actual paid downloads. Perhaps I’m not supposed to share that because it shows weakness. But it’s the truth. And I feel obligated to warn other potential Indie authors. If they wish to go into this business, they should go in with their eyes wide open.

 

Furthermore, if you want to be an Indie author, you should know that just being a good writer is not good enough. You need to have some business skills, not to mention a certain degree of Tech savviness. Like I said above, my business skills are sorely lacking. I never studied business in college and I’m having to learn the ropes the hard way. As far as Tech is concerned, I’m reasonably comfortable on-line; I just don’t like spending my whole day hunting through various web sites or visiting Social sites. I would much rather be writing. Or editing. Or brainstorming. Or what-have-you.

 

Then there is the whole Amazon factor. It is my belief that Amazon is going to put all the Indie writers out of business or force them into slavery. I don’t know much about business, but I do know that I can’t compete with Amazon when they offer all the books you want for a $3 monthly fee. Which is what they are doing. No one wants to pay for books anymore. Amazon is conditioning the consumer to expect free books. I gave Drasmyr away for free. And I may even give a Novella or two away for free. But that’s it. Every book I write represents a substantial investment of both time and money: for my novels, close to two years and a painful amount of money.

 

It’s enough to make me pull out my own hair in frustration.

 

Next week: my cat, Confucius, will reply!

Guest Post on Cirsova: My Influences for My Fantasy Literature

Hi All,

Just a note to let you know I’m guest posting on Cirsova today. Just a few thoughts on some of my influences in fantasy literature and how they have affected me. I talk a lot about J.R.R. Tolkien. Check it out!

Confucius Speaks …

Confucius

Look at me! I’m a cat! I am wise, wily, and wicked. I’m an avid fantasy reader who has agreed to post on Mr. Ryan’s blog. I’ve read Mr. Ryan’s books. They’re all great, except for one flaw: No cats! What is the problem? He had rats! But no cats. I’ll be contacting PETA soon unless you include a cat in the next book. Be warned, Mr. Ryan. Overlooking a class of animal as prevalent as we are is tantamount to deliberate oppression. You have not heard the last of me. And if PETA doesn’t respond, it’ll be the Labor Department. I’ll take you to court and sue you for as many cat treats as your 401k can provide.

 

Unless, um … um … you rub my ears and fluff my pillow and let me rub my body against your calves. Don’t step on me! Just let me revel in my silken loveliness!

 

Reader Poll: What Length Fantasy eBook Do You Like To Read?

Hi, all,

I’ve decided to run a reading poll. It’s very brief, but the code may be a little twitchy. Anyway,

What is your preferred book length for a fantasy ebook?

Take the poll here.

Movie Review: Odd Thomas (2013) (3 ½ *’s)

Odd Thomas is a movie based on the novel of the same name by Dean R. Koontz. I haven’t read much of Dean R. Koontz’s work, just The Watchers and maybe one other book which I don’t recall. I was always impressed by the caliber of his writing, so a friend and I figured we’d give this movie a look (he’d actually read the book and said that he liked it). The movie tells the story of a young man living in a small town by the name of Odd Thomas. Yes, his first name is Odd. This is the result of a typo at birth; his parents were originally going to call him Todd.

Anyway, Odd has a number of special abilities, all psychic in nature. He can see the dead; he can see these evil demonic spirits that flock to chaos and death, and he can find people he’s looking for—provided they are relevant to his current psychic case—simply by wandering around town. He’s also a heck of a good fist-fighter. The story begins with him encountering the ghost of a girl who was recently slain. She leads him to her murderer, who he promptly chases down and beats into submission for the police to take care of. That’s just the intro. From there, the plot thickens when he notices a man at his restaurant who is attracting an unusually high number of demonic spirits. This portends a massacre in the making. And that is something he has stop. The other characters in the film include his girlfriend Stormy, the police captain, a number of policemen, a single mother of two, and a few others.

 

Strengths: the movie had good plot, good characters, and decent special effects. I didn’t notice any logical loopholes on a first viewing, nor was the violence gratuitous. And the acting, I thought, was pretty good. Weaknesses: I think it tried to be too clever. There were a number of “twists” which involved additional bad guys, that got a bit tiresome; I walked away thinking they’d used that twist just one too many times. I mean really—was the whole town out to get them? Anyway, it was still a good movie and I’d recommend it to anybody looking for some paranormal mystery-type entertainment.

 

Ultimately, I’ll give Odd Thomas three and a half, or maybe even four stars out of five.